Kevin Kelly moved to the northwest Chicago suburbs in 2014, after 23 years living in Champaign-Urbana. In 1996, he founded a uniquely entertaining professional chamber orchestra called The Prairie Ensemble, with a mission to “make first-rate music fun, approachable and affordable.” Kevin has been honored three times by the Illinois Council of Orchestras for his work with the Ensemble: for “Programming of the Year “ in 1999 and 2003 and for “Meritorious Service in Orchestral Conducting” in 2002. Since 1993, he has conducted the East Central Illinois Youth Orchestra—the ICO’s “Youth Orchestra of the Year” in 1999—and Kevin continues to commute to Champaign for Sunday rehearsals. After 13 years as a classical music host at public radio station WILL-FM in Urbana, he served as host and producer of “Live and Local,” which featured interviews with, and frequent live performances by artists across many musical genres, theater and dance. In the fall of 2015, he became Artistic Director of the Allegro Community Chorus, a program of the Palatine Park District, and Conductor for the Lake County Núcleo of Sistema Ravinia, an outreach program of the Ravinia Festival.
Kevin’s work with choirs included 17 years as choirmaster at Emmanuel Memorial Episcopal Church in Champaign. As music director of The Prairie Ensemble, he conducted collaborative performances with the University of Illinois Concert Choir and Women’s Glee Club, Amasong, the Chorus of the Baroque Artists of Champaign Urbana and the Central Illinois Children’s Chorus. He previously directed the Sangamon Valley Youth Orchestras in Springfield and the Illini Statesmen Barbershop Chorus in Champaign-Urbana, and he has been active in musical theater with the Champaign-Urbana Theatre Company.
Kevin holds bachelor’s degrees in English and music history and criticism from Northwestern University, and master’s degrees in orchestral and choral conducting from the University of Illinois. He has sung with several Chicago-area choral ensembles, including the Chicago Symphony Chorus, the Grant Park Symphony Chorus, The City Musick, Basically Bach and His Majesties Clerkes (now Bella Voce). He has studied conducting with Kenneth Kiesler, Paul Vermel, Victor Yampolsky and Harold Farberman.